I was recently talking on the phone to my mother and catching her up with our family’s schedule for the next few months—my kids’ activities, doctor and dental appointments, carpools, writing conferences, a talk I was giving at the college I’d attended, and my next deadline—I’m under contract for two books for two different series due in July.
My mother exclaimed, “I thought you said the first few months of 2012 were going to be quieter for you!”
I paused for a minute.
“They are quieter. You should have seen how busy it was in the fall.”
We’ve all got lives like this (or, if you don’t, I’m envious!) There’s never the perfect time to write that book.
The good news is that writing can fit tidily into a hectic schedule.
Here are four ideas for making it work:
Taking a look at those goals: Keeping our goals attainable is key to meeting them. If we make goals that are more like challenges (I’ll write 3,000 words every day) then when we have a really busy day or a set-back of any kind, we set ourselves up for failure. Instead, keeping a manageable goal that we can easily meet (either a daily or weekly goal) helps us rack up successes and stay motivated.
Taking pleasure in the process: When we’re looking at our writing as a chore, it’s easier to push it to the bottom of our to-do list. When this happens to me, I try to remember what drew me to writing to begin with. Sometimes I’ll reread my favorite books or revisit old brainstorming notebooks where I’d really been fired up with my writing. Sometimes I just need to fall in love with my characters again and think about what makes them unique and fun to write. It’s all about remembering the joy of creativity and my enjoyment in the process of artistic expression.
Fitting Writing into a Quick Session: Making writing a habit means having it be almost automatic…when we have those few minutes of free time and automatically reach for our notebook. For me, this dead time is in the carpool line outside my son’s high school. With even five extra minutes, we can make short lists that progress our WiP: ten interesting things about our protagonist, five details about our main setting, or ten alternate endings for our book.
Looking at our life through a creative lens is another way to fit writing into our day. Who are some of the characters we come across? What bits of description or textured words do we discover at our office or as we run errands? Small notebooks or voice recorders are great for jotting down ideas.
Promoting our writing from a distance: Attending writing conferences, having book signings, and going on a book tours can be time consuming and expensive. Many writers feel an obligation to squeeze personal appearances into a packed schedule. It’s a way to promote your book and writing…but it’s not the only way to promote. And if it leaves you burned out, poorer, and out of writing time, then it may not be an effective way for you to build the platform recommended for today’s writers.
Consider, instead, using a timer and your favorite type of social media. Could you blog twice a week? Could you update your Facebook page each day or be active on Goodreads or Twitter? Set your timer or use a free online timer to make sure you don’t burn up too much of your writing time.
The nice thing about an online platform is that you’ve got the potential for reaching far more people for a fraction of the cost. Social media is about making relationships and networking online—not direct sales. This indirect approach to getting your name and book better-known is also less stressful for writers.
How do you make time for writing or promo in your busy schedule? How do you keep the joy in your process?
Elizabeth’s latest book, Hickory Smoked Homicide, released November 1 2011.
Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley (as Riley Adams), the Southern Quilting mysteries (2012) for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink and independently. She blogs daily at Mystery Writing is Murder.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley (as Riley Adams), the Southern Quilting mysteries (2012) for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink. She blogs daily atMystery Writing is Murder, which was named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2010 and 2011.
Her most recent releases are Finger Lickin’ Dead, the second of the Memphis Barbeque series (June 2011 for Penguin), Progressive Dinner Deadly a Myrtle Clover Mystery (August 2011), Hickory Smoked Homicide (a November 2011 release), and A Dyeing Shame a Myrtle Clover mystery (December 2011).
Elizabeth is active in the online writing community. She shares writing-related links on Twitter as @elizabethscraig and posts on craft and the publishing industry on her blog, Mystery Writing is Murder. She and Mike Fleming of Hiveword also manage theWriter’s Knowledge Base–a free search engine to help writers find resources.